A remarkable vertical tasting of this incredible Champagne
conceived 50 years ago by Madame Bollinger,’ says Jérôme
Philipon, president of Bollinger, as he outlined the key
characteristics of this remarkable wine. ‘RD 1952, released in
1961, was the first.’ Here, we tried six wines, spanning four
decades, in a remarkable tasting over lunch. Not much spitting.
stands for récemment dégorgé
(recently disgorged), is exclusively made with grapes from Grand Cru
and Premier Cru vineyards. The varietal balance is usually 70% Pinot
Noir, 30% Chardonnay: no Pinot Meunier is used. The wine is
exclusively based on the first press fraction, known as the cuvée.
For the second fermentation the wine is bottled under natural cork,
as opposed to the normal crown cap. ‘This makes the wine able to
age far longer,’ explains Philipon.
Bollinger Chef du Cave Matthieu Kauffmann
stays on its lees for a long time, typically 8–10 years. The
riddling and disgorgement are manual, and the dosage used is low
(3–4 g/litre). ‘This was decided back in 1960 and has remained
that way,’ says Philipon.
made 18 vintages over the years,’ he reports, ‘and here we have
chosen 6 out of the top 8 wines to show.’
RD is the same blend as Grande Année (Bollinger’s prestige-level
vintage cuvée, only made in favourable years) that has been aged on
its lees for a very long time.
interesting to compare the effect of ageing
on its lees versus ageing it in bottle. In bottle, the interaction
with lees is complex, and largely reductive, resulting in a fresher
wine with real complexity. Personally, I love the RD style.
Kauffmann introduced the wines, which spanned four decades. Working
through these wines was one of my great
65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. pH 3.01, acid 5.3 g/l. Disgorged 4
Jan 2010. Matthieu says that 1997 was a year of contrasts, with a
good harvest following a difficult summer. A wet winter was followed
by cold weather during flowering, leading to some millerandage. It
starter out a wet summer with lots of mildew, but hot dry weather
followed, before a cold September, which reduced the botrytis risk.
Yield was 9400 kg/hectare, with 10.2 potential alcohol and 8.4 g
acid. The wine shows a smooth, aromatic, toasty nose with hints of
pear and fudge, as well as some meaty, savoury notes. The palate is
crisp and fresh with taut acidity, and some savoury, almost mineral
toasty notes. Lean, intense, precise and focused. Dry and
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. 12.1% alcohol, pH 2.92, 6 g/l
acid. Disgorged 15 Oct 2007. An exceptional, incredible year,
according to Matthieu. The summer was hot and it began to rain in
August. September had low night time temperatures, helping preserve
acidity. Harvest began 16 Sep with excellent weather. Yield was 10
300 kg/hectare, with both high sugar (10% potential alcohol) and
high acid (10 g). Amazingly fresh and precise. Citrussy, taut and
subtly toasty with lovely fresh aromatics. The palate is fresh, pure
and mineral with tight citrusy complexity and some toastiness. Very
fine, with high acidity. Long, subtly bready finish. Fine and
63% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay. pH 2.86 (the lowest ever
recorded here), 6.2 g acid. This was a hot summer with fast
maturation. 9.2% alcohol, 8.7 g acid. Disgorged 15 Oct 2006. No
malolactic, so the acidity is actually higher than the 1996.
Distinctive, tight bready nose with nice savoury freshness. The
palate is fresh and citrusy with a savoury, toasty, bready edge and
a lemony finish. Fresh, bright and taut with lovely precision.
72% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay. pH 2.97, 5.6 g/l acidity.
Disgorged 4 May 2010. This was a late, rainy season, with average
yield of 9000 kg/hectare. 9.2% alcohol, 9.4 g acidity. Taut, toasty
nose showing some nice evolution. The palate is precise, complex and
mineral with precision, subtlety and intensity. Lovely complexity
here: an elegant, balanced wine with real finesse. 96/100
65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. 12.2% alcohol, pH 3.1, 4.8 g/l
acidity. Disgorged 4 May 2010. Very dry, hot summer – the hottest
since 1959 – led to an early harvest, which began on 1 September.
Alcohol 10.5%, acid 6.7 g. Yield 10359 kg/ha. Deep yellow/gold
colour. Complex but mellow toasty nose still has lots of life in it.
The palate is taut and fresh with a lemony edge to the toasty fruit.
Mellow, complex and refined, with the acid tasting higher than the
figures suggest. 95/100
65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. 12.2% alcohol, 6.3 g/l acidity.
Disgorged 4 May 2010. This was a hot summer with excellent maturity
in the grapes: the best potential alcohol for 100 years. Matthieu
describes this as ‘more like a Sauternes with bubbles’.
Wonderfully complex mushroom and toast character on the nose:
mature, complex and nicely savoury. The palate is fruity (apricots)
with some nutty, savoury depth. Thrilling stuff—distinctive,
savoury, long and still very lively. 95/100 See
report on a visit to Bollinger
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